Finding Paradise in Methow Valley

Every year, The Mountaineers hosts Winter Trails Day along with other partners in Methow Valley. Activities include Nordic ski and snowshoe tours, fat bike demos, ski lessons, rental deals, horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice skating and more. Read about how Winter Trails Day came to be a part of our yearly tradition, and why it's so special.
Christopher Ensor Christopher Ensor
December 06, 2016
by Chris Ensor, Mountaineers Trip Leader

I fell in love with the snow as a child. We didn’t have a lot of the white stuff where I grew up near London, England but I was fortunate in that my parents took my brother and I skiing in Austria. Every winter after that I tried to get in at least one ski vacation. 

It was on one of these vacations in Chamonix, France that I met a woman named Val who has since become my wife. When I first visited Val and her family in Kent, WA, I was delighted to find ski slopes were just over an hour away — as well as hiking, snowshoeing and water sports, depending on the time of year. It was at this time I knew I really wanted to make Puget Sound my home.

Val and I first found out about the Methow Valley (pronounced “Met-how”) and the fact that it has the largest Nordic Trails system in the US by chance. About ten years ago, Val won a silent auction item at the annual OUTDOORSFORALL gala auction for two weekend trail passes. We had both recently taken up cross country skiing, so we looked on the map and found that the Methow Valley is located north of Chelan. We booked lodgings and took off wondering if the five-hour journey would be worth it. 

What we found was a winter paradise and in its center the picturesque western theme town of Winthrop. We have returned every winter since. We also discovered what a fabulous place it is for hiking and as a base for trips up to the spectacular North Cascades.

I joined the Mountaineers in 2010 shortly before I retired from running a small disability nonprofit in Pierce County. One of my retirement goals was to share my love of the outdoors and of snow in particular with other people. I trained to be a Nordic ski and a hike leader with the Mountaineers. I also trained to be a professional ski instructor. One of my key goals was to share the magic of the Methow Valley with others from this side of the pass. 

Starting five years ago and working with other Mountaineer leaders, I was able to help bring National Trails Day to the Methow each June. It was a step closer, but I really wanted to show people what a wonderful winter wonderland it can be. 

Finally, in January of 2015, we were able to organize the first Winter Trails Day event — complete with activities for all ages from skiing and snowshoeing to ice skating and horse-drawn sleigh rides. It’s time now to organize it for next year, and you're invited.

This article originally appeared in our November/December 2015 issue of Mountaineer magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, click here.

Add a comment

Log in to add comments.
Cindy Hoover
Cindy Hoover says:
Fri, Dec 9, 2016 9:45 AM

Thanks Chris! I love hearing your story.